Take one look at Amanda Jane Jones’ Instagram and you’ll feel like you’re in a mid-century dream world where kids put away their toys. Once you stop drolling over the possibility, you’ll find that Amanda is a gifted graphic designer and a busy mom with an eye for design.
Here, she shares her how she balances working from home with two kids, her advice for dealing with clutter and those eyesore toys, and her favorite Chicago spots for families.
Name: Amanda Jane Jones
Current Title/Company: Freelance Graphic Design and Art Director, Amanda Jane Jones Studio
Square Footage: 1750
Rent or Own: Own
City/State: Chicago, IL
Children: Jane, 4 and Miles, 2
You quit your first design job and began freelancing full-time, eventually creating a well-respected graphic design business, Amanda Jane Jones Studio. Tell us about that transition.
It’s all about time with my family. I quit my first design job when my husband received an amazing opportunity to do research for three months in the Philippines. It was one of those defining moments of our relationship. It didn’t make sense to quit, and I knew it would be hard, but I’m so glad I did. Choosing to be together is what fueled my drive to get freelance projects! We’ve traveled a lot as a family and I know that’s because I can work from wherever we are.
It’s also important for me to be in complete control of my client list and environment. In a previous job I had, no one was allowed to wear headphones and I was only allowed to select the music one day a week. My boss had a love for reggae music and the countless “reggae days” made me realize how important surroundings are for cultivating creativity.
With two (adorable) kids at home and a self-owned business, how do you balance work and your family?
It’s an ongoing learning curve. My husband and I split our time. I work 20 hours a week and he works 25-30 hours. When each of us works, the other gets to be with the kids, which we both love. We feel pretty lucky it works out for us this way! I know it’s not for everyone, but it works for us. Our friends used to call themselves a “stay-at-home family.” and that’s been our goal ever since.
My office, however, is at home (with no doors! I’m working on it.), so I get little visitors often which can be a hindrance, so we’ve tried to be creative and make the work environment also conducive for the kids. If they are in my office, I put music they like on and I’ll keep paper and art supplies nearby so Jane can work on her “pwojects” too. Ultimately, it’s never as fast or quite as productive as working in an office, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The fact that I get to rock my youngest to sleep at naptime and eat each meal with them is priceless to me so I work around the occasional inconveniences.
Do you have any tips for staying productive when working from home?
Something switched in my brain when I became a parent, and I don’t know if it’s because I have limited time or what, but when I sit down, I’m immediately in the zone. I have so few hours, it makes me much faster and generally more productive. I always listen to music, it helps drown out the noises elsewhere. I also like to keep my desk clean, but ironically – my desk right now is pretty scary looking. We just had four photoshoots last week, so our house (and my brain!) is in recovery mode!
Where was your first home and how did you decorate it?
After we got married, Cree and I lived in a tiny 400-square-foot apartment. The bed was on stilts so we could put a desk underneath it. We hung our clothes on a rod that hung from the ceiling. It wasn’t ideal, but we loved it and it gave us fun memories. There was exposed brick and some old records up, but I don’t remember much else. Oh! And fresh flowers. Cree was totally the typical newlywed and would bring me fresh flowers every week. He’s always been sweet like that.
How has your interior style evolved over the years?
Same as my design style! Much less colorful, more neutral. When I’m home, I want to feel calm and peaceful…I also feel like I’m more creative in calmer spaces. It gives my brain more room to think and create.
You make minimalism look amazing (and easy!). How do you incorporate a minimalist look and lifestyle into your home with two kids and a busy family?
Organization! Cree built custom shelves for all of our closets and we’ve filled them to the brim. I try to make it so that everything has a place. We also try to tidy up every evening before bed (keyword there is try.)
Why did you and your husband settle in Chicago? What are your favorite areas and/or aspects of the city?
Cree is getting his Ph.D. at The University of Chicago and then he has a fellowship, so we’ll be here in Hyde Park for the next couple years. I grew up in the Midwest and never dreamed I’d move back, but I guess I’m just a Midwest girl for life! It’s a great place to be.
We love the south side of Chicago – it’s perfect for us. But we also love to go visit the city – my kids love Maggie Daley Park and we’re headed to the ribbon to scooter this week. We love Wicker Park and Lincoln Park. We visit the zoo quite often and go out to eat a lot as well. Our favorites are Small Cheval, The Publican, Plein Air, Parsons Chicken & Fish, Antique Taco, Bang Bang Pie, Dove’s Luncheonette and Big Star (when I’m not on whole30!). We also love to take photos in the photobooth at Quimby’s!
And my all-time favorite Chicago activity? Riding bikes with my family along the lakeshore. No matter what our moods, it’s an instant cure and makes everyone happy and content. The lakeshore breeze is pure magic.
A lot of moms feel like their brains are constantly in overload with information and to-do lists. How do you maintain creativity, while still staying on top of your mental workload?
Some days I do it better than others, but I think just being able to go with the flow and not setting high expectations for yourself. That might sound like a downer, but I’m not good with massive to-do lists. When I try to fit in too much with the kids, I always regret it. Little goals established each day are best in my book. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with pajama days. Kids need mental health days just as much as mom and dad sometimes.
How has the design of your home changed since having children?
Not that much! We keep toys and books in each room, so the kids generally don’t get into our stuff because there are so many better options to play with. We do this in a way that doesn’t take away from the style of our home by using well-designed storage containers and using the more beautiful toys as a part of the decor. Some of our favorites are our Monroe Workshop pieces, our T-lab animals and our puzzles from Brimful Shop.
What tips do you have for mothers trying to create a beautiful, but functional, home?
Don’t just buy something to buy it – wait and save until it’s something you love, and in the meantime, enjoy the simplicity. Don’t stress about what others are doing. If you like it, do it! It’s your house! It’s your safe-haven and sanctuary. Do what you love with it!
Where do you go for home decor inspiration and where are your favorite places to shop for home decor?
Decorating a house with kids is always tricky. How do you create an organized home with all of the stuff that comes along with having kids?
We use a lot of toy bins and boxes. I found a whole bunch of old tool boxes at the Randolph Street Market last year and they’re all filled with the not too pretty toys like the Octonaut and Doc McStuffins figurines. Bins and boxes are great because when they are divided like that, the kids know where they go! They also always know where the toys they want are. Our kids are pretty self-sufficient when it comes to play and that makes for bigger messes, but also much more play time.
How has your view of motherhood changed since becoming a mom?
I think I’ve realized just how important it is – it’s the small and simple things that matter. Motherhood has made me more compassionate, less critical and much less judgemental. This past year and a half has been so difficult emotionally with all that’s going on in the world, both politically here and worldwide. It makes my job as a mother so much more important to teach my children those basic lessons of love, respect, and kindness.
What’s the most rewarding and challenging part of being a parent?
Most rewarding is just watching your kids love, live, and discover life. There is nothing better than toddler belly laughs or bedtime snuggles. They can be total grumps and then just fall asleep on your shoulder and all is forgotten. And when they start to say, “I Love you” and mean it! That’s the greatest.
The most challenging part for me is discipline and outside expectations. I did an Instagram story the other day about time out and someone responded saying they never do time outs…basically mom-shaming me for it. Mom-shaming happens so much through Instagram, as well as receiving unsolicited advice. It boggles my mind why another mother would put down a fellow mother who’s obviously just trying to do her best. There is no guidebook to parenting and if something works for one family, it might not work for another and that’s fine.
Toddler tantrums in public are pretty terrible too. Ha!
If you could only pick one, what has been your favorite memory from motherhood so far?
When I got married, my dad said that 99% of life is the mundane – the every day (washing dishes, doing laundry, etc.) – and the other 1% is few and far between. I can honestly say, some of my happiest moments are our simple bike rides along our lake and sitting with Jane after preschool listening to her talk about her day. Reading books before bed on the porch, hosing off the kids after a super long beach day, burning dinner and going to Five Guys….a long way to say, I love all of it. The exciting and the not-so-exciting. It goes so fast and I’m just trying to enjoy it all…even the boogers.
Tell us your morning routine.
Cuddles! We start each day with cuddles…we’ve conditioned them from birth. Then I make breakfast (oatmeal always for Miles) while Cree showers and I usually go exercise and then school! Pretty simple.
Amanda Jane Jones is The Everymom…
Favorite family tradition? Beach bike rides
Easy go-to family meal to prepare? Sweet potato taco salad
Your dream vacation? Norway
Favorite stress relief after a long day? Crawling into bed and watching a BBC show with Cree (although I think he’d prefer The Walking Dead).